by Lianna Patch, via noladefender.com
Jim Richard’s “Make Yourself at Home,” on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art through February 24, 2013, remains one of the best shows of the year. A modernist journey through the colorful interiors of homes filled with a mix of high art, tchotchkes, and period furniture, Richard’s twelve-work exhibit showcases his deep knowledge of contemporary and historical art alongside refined technical skill, and pokes a little fun at modern art in the meantime.
When not creating paintings and collages, Richard teaches painting at the University of New Orleans. Below, he answers a few questions about “Make Yourself at Home” and his creative process for NoDef.
NOLA Defender: How long does it take you to complete a painting, from your beginning collage(s) to the final work? What does your process look like?
Jim Richard: The paintings vary wildly in time consumed. A friendly one can take a few weeks, a difficult one requiring more than usual repainting can take a couple of months. Paintings on paper and collages, of course, go much faster. These days, my planning process is more and more dependent on the computer. I scan in hundreds of images and use them as digital collage material. I use the finished digital collages as models for paintings and works on paper. I also regularly do cut-and-paste collages, some of which become models for paintings.
ND: Do you find inspiration in others’ houses? (And do people open their houses to you?)
JR: I collect my interior images from books, magazines and advertising. I avoid using houses of people I know, because it makes them too vulnerable to negative comments about their taste in décor when my shows are reviewed in newspapers or magazines.
ND: After your studio was destroyed during Katrina, you began collaging. How else did you deal with the loss of your past work?
JR: After Katrina, the most difficult loss was the forty years’ worth of records of all the work I have done. I was able to retrieve some of that from past galleries, but much is just gone. As for the lost works themselves, I just put all my focus on new work. Each new piece was part of a fresh start.
ND: Where do you see your style moving?
JR: Stylistically, I am trying to use Photoshop and Illustrator to break up and simplify my complex images. For many years, I used a dark, cartoon-like contour line to delineate every item in my compositions. Lately, I have eliminated that outline, which has allowed for considerably more freedom. I am also allowing the computer to offer me color possibilities that can make my color choices less predictable.
ND: What do you focus on in your classes at UNO?
JR: At UNO, I encourage students to be young artists of their own time, to look at as much contemporary art as possible (along with their art historical favorites) and to measure their success against the best art they have seen. My goal is to get them to see and think like artists. I talk a great deal about technique, but that is not my primary focus. Once they are able to picture good art, they are absolutely ingenious at finding their own ways to make it happen.
ND: Who are your favorite contemporary artists, both in and beyond New Orleans?
JR: My earliest influences were the French and German modernists, then the Abstract Expressionists, then Pop and Conceptualism/Minimalism. I was especially affected by the Rauschenberg Combine pieces and the Lichtenstein paintings of brushstrokes. On the side, I was very interested in the Bay Area Figurative Painters of the 50s/60s.
I look at a great deal of contemporary work, including many young artists. Some people off the top of my head are Rachel Harrison, Tom Sachs, Tim Hawkinson, Martha Rosler, Wayne Gonzales, Jessica Stockholder, Tom Friedman, Thomas Nozkowski, Sara Sze, Robert Irwin, Gerhard Richter, and Tara Donovan.
“Make Yourself at Home” is displayed in NOMA’s Great Hall. It’s more than worth a trip to City Park to see Richard’s works over the last 19 years of his career!